BJ’s Wholesale Club opens in Clearwater Saturday. Does it compete with Costco and Sam’s Club?

A new BJ’s will open in Clearwater this weekend a roughly 10 minute drive from Costco and Sam’s Club.

A new wholesale retailer is set to open in Pinellas County this weekend.

The Clearwater location of BJ’s Wholesale Club is slated to open Saturday at 26996 U.S. Hwy 19 N. It will be the first BJ’s Wholesale in Pinellas County. There already are two locations in Hillsborough.

Tampa Bay Times reporter Sara DiNatale toured BJ’s new store this week and detailed its design and interior, with signs telling shoppers that a BJ’s membership can lower their grocery bills by 25 percent a year.

When we first wrote about the store’s opening last year, the wholesale addition clearly resonated with an audience. Nearly 600 of you liked the story on Facebook and more than 200 of you shared the news.

It will be the first BJ's in Pinellas County.

Posted by Tampa Bay Times on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Since that initial announcement, many of you have kept tabs on the building’s progress. Some asked when the store would officially open.

Hi, is there a grand opening/ event page planned for the new Clearwater location? Looks like it is getting close 🤗

Posted by Kristen Rath on Tuesday, March 12, 2019

And some of you wondered whether BJ’s emergence on the scene would affect other nearby wholesale retailers, like Costco and Sam’s Club, some of the store’s biggest competitors. In fact, Sam’s Club and Costco are both located about a 10 minute drive on U.S. Highway 19 North from the new BJ’s Wholesale location, according to Google Maps’ system.

With such a short commute between all three, and a Sam’s Club and Costco located quite literally minutes away from each other, we created a few cost comparisons.

Annual fees

Large crowds gathered on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, to snap up some deals before the Sam's Club in South Tampa closes its doors for good on Jan. 27. Prices were slashed 25 percent on all items, excluding tires and tobacco products. Times (2018)

BJ’s Wholesale Inner Circle Club: $55/year

Costco Gold Star: $60/year

Sam’s Club Member: $45/year

All three stores require shoppers to pay an annual membership fee to shop at their store. Based on cost alone, Sam’s Club’s membership is the cheapest. BJ’s is the only one to offer an online-only membership for $10 a year.

Each store also offers a premium card with additional benefits, including cash rewards and earlier hours for cardholders at some stores. Those range in price from $100 to $120 a year, with Sam’s Club again at the lowest cost.

Membership benefits

Gas prices drop below the $1.99 price at the Exxon station on U.S. HW 19 in Palm Harbor on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. DIRK SHADD | Times

Many wholesale retailers tend to be multifaceted businesses, selling not just steaks as big as your torso and giant containers of toilet paper, but glasses, tires and gasoline.

With the purchase of a Sam’s Club card, members can get free flat tire repair, battery testing and wiper blade installation, according to their website. BJ’s Wholesale card members can also receive eyewear services and use BJ’s Tire Center.

In a price comparison of local gas stations this week, the Clearwater locations of both Sam’s Club Gasoline and Costco Gasoline cost $2.66 for regular gas, according to Google Maps records. A BJ’s Gas location in Tampa cost $2.65 for regular gas, as of Friday.

Grocery delivery

In the busy digital age, many people are looking for grocery delivery rather than an in-person shopping experience. While that comes with its own perils for the shoppers who work for you, many wholesale stores are looking at delivery as an added perk.

All three stores, Sam’s Club, BJ’s Wholesale and Costco, have a grocery delivery system through personal shopper app Instacart, according to their websites.

What’s the verdict?

Are you loyal to a wholesale store? Are you itching for the new BJ’s to arrive in town with your membership pre-bought? Is wholesale just not quite your thing? Whichever category you fall into, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.